Monthly Archives: December 2017

Progress report

I included this health update in our bulletin this week to apprise the congregation on how I was doing and the plans for the future.


From the desk of Pastor Mark Wheeler

Dear friends,

First off, let me say, “Thank you!” for all the cards, visits, care packages, yard work, snow removal, putting up Christmas lights, meals, encouraging words, support, and prayer over the past two months. Carol and I are extremely grateful for all the help and support. We don’t know how we would have gotten through without you.

I am now two months into the recovery and rehab process since my accident on November 6 when I fell and broke my leg/hip. I have been cleared for full weight-bearing status. My in-home physical therapist has me doing exercises to help strengthen my leg and gradually increase mobility. I will soon begin more intensive physical therapy. I am on a blood thinner designed to help my body deal with the blood clot(s) in my calf and reduce the swelling. I am making slow progress, but still have a ways to go.

The tentative plan is that I will resume preaching on January 7. We will begin a new sermon series on “The State of the Church,” examining the seven churches in Revelation 1-3. Initially, I will sit in a chair while I preach until my leg gets strong enough to stand for an extended period of time. While I will be preaching again, I will not be in the office until I can resume driving. I still need greater strength, mobility, and confidence before I feel comfortable getting behind the wheel.

Thanks again for your prayers for my health and recovery. Please continue to pray for increased strength, mobility, and confidence in my leg/hip. Please pray as I adjust to a new normal. Please continue to pray for our staff and leaders as we shepherd the church.

Thanks. Thanks. Thanks. I’m in your debt.

Following His Footsteps,

Pastor Mark Wheeler

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 31, 2017 in Personal growth


Find your oasis

Book Review: Trade Your Cares For Calm, by Max Lucado

Fear may fill our world, but it doesn’t have to fill your heart. That is the theme of Max Lucado’s short book, Trade Your Cares For Calm. Many books on worry follow the pattern of “Don’t!” and give steps how to stop. Max Lucado wants to replace the wrong patterns of life and refocus our attention on something better. In that sense, the book follows the instructions of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

The book combines inspiring stories, beautiful photographs, encouraging quotes, key Scriptures, and places to journal in order to help the reader pursue peace and calmness. The book is organized into 10 chapters that deal with anxiety, worry, control, God’s goodness, God’s mercy, guilt, “if only,” calm, gratitude, and peace. Each chapter has smaller 2-page sections that focus on a specific thought or action.

Rather than new material, the book is a collection of writings from previous books by the author. The book is designed to be a gift book that you could give to someone going through a difficult season of life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

1 Comment

Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Books, Scripture


A thrilling tale of spiritual warfare

Book Review: The Empowered: A Trevor Black Novel, by Craig Parshall

If you combine a mysterious voodoo death with a child abduction ring, add in a disbarred ex-attorney with believes in demon possession and oppression, couple that with a carefully staged murder and the attorney’s daughter who goes missing, you have the key plot ingredients of Craig Parshall’s latest offering.

In The Occupied, the author introduced us to Trevor Black, a disbarred ex-attorney who could sense when demons were present. In The Empowered, Black is asked to investigate a mysterious voodoo death in Washington, DC. The journey takes Black and his daughter to New Orleans and finally to Washington, DC in pursuit of both a physical and supernatural enemy.

In the first book, Black had a spiritual encounter with Christ that transformed his life. He made a decision to use his special “gifting” to fight evil in the world. In the second book, Black explains that he believes

that there is a shadow world. A dark empire of evil that is mostly unseen. But the doors that lead there—they’re open for business. I think voodoo is one of them.

The book is well written and grabs your attention from the opening sentence of the prologue and doesn’t let go until the thrilling end of the novel. On the one hand, it combines elements from the daily headlines—child abduction, human trafficking, cybercrime, and political corruption—with elements out of Scripture—demon possession and demon oppression. The book gives a realistic, biblical portrayal of the supernatural evil that lies beyond some of the more horrendous crimes of our day.

Because of the subject matter, the book is not for the faint of heart. But it is a fascinating thrill ride well worth the read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 28, 2017 in Books


Happy 37th Anniversary!

Happy 37th anniversary to my bride, wife, best friend, lover, ministry partner, fellow traveler, and lover of Jesus. While the years may have changed us and we may have moved around the country, my love for you has deepened and my commitment grows ever stronger. 37 years is too short a time to be married to your best beloved. May the adventure continue for many more years to come!

1 Comment

Posted by on December 27, 2017 in Family & Friends, Photos


Lessons learned (or learning)

A few of the random thoughts I’ve had this past week about my ongoing stint on the DL.

I am expendable. Towards the end of the recent sermon series on the life of Moses, I used a quote from Chuck Swindoll. “God’s plan depends on no one for all time, but for all to serve him at a certain time. Time on earth is brief, even for God’s best.” While I’ve been away, First Central Bible Church did not stop functioning. Good ministry has taken place. People have been taught, counseled, and cared for. Good preaching (some might argue “better”) has been delivered. While I count it a privilege to serve God at FCBC, it is his church, not mine. His plan includes me, but is not dependent on me. I am part of a wonderful team, not a solo practitioner.

I am loved. Over the past seven weeks, Carol and I have received encouragement and prayer support from friends and family around the country and the globe. In particular, the congregation of First Central has showered us with cards, visits, care packages, yard work, moving beds, shoveling snow, meals, balloons, finishing putting up the Christmas lights, rides to the doctor, and so much more. They have been the hands and feet of the body of Christ, demonstrating care, compassion, and concern in tangible ways at every turn. I don’t know how we would have survived without their help. And this doesn’t even begin to describe how much my wife has loved and cared for me. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.

I have a big God who provides abundantly. God has led and provided throughout this entire process of surgery, care, rehab, and recovery. A caring neighbor who called 9-1-1. A church member who stopped at the right time to render aid. The right hospital and surgical team. A 5‑star rehab center. Help when it was needed. Physical therapy. Good insurance. (We received the bill for the hospital this week. We’re still waiting on the bills from the surgeon and rehab center. The hospital bill was $25K. Fortunately, insurance covered the bulk and our responsibility was less than $1K.) God meets us right at our point of need. Praise God for his abundant generosity.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 26, 2017 in Personal growth


The Glory of Christmas

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 25, 2017 in Christmas, Scripture


What do we mean when we say, “Merry Christmas”?

What does it mean when we wish someone, “Merry Christmas”? What exactly are we saying? Here is a video message created for First Central Bible Church‘s Christmas Eve service. Since I’m on the DL and not able to be there, we decided to go the video route. The idea and outline for the message came from a book written by Pastor Rick Warren.



Posted by on December 24, 2017 in Christmas, First Central Bible Church, Videos


21st Century gods

I am working my way through a thought provoking book, A Practical Guide to Culture; Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, by John Stonestreet & Brett Kunkle. In Chapter 5: Identity after Christianity (pgs. 104-106), the author explain that in today’s culture, people find their identity in what they do rather than what they think. Behavior defines identity more than beliefs. Consequently, we have developed a whole new set of idols.

Our twenty-first century, having inherited that twentieth-century baggage, is full of contradiction. We strive to champion and expand human rights without knowing what a human is. We educate students with whats and hows but offer no coherent vision of why. We dramatically protect, heal, and save some babies in the womb while targeting others for extinction, particularly those with disabilities. We fill our lives with entertainment, gadgets, experiences, activities, and other distractions but have no clear telos, or ultimate purpose. In short, we want human flourishing without God. But it won’t happen.

Of course, those who reject God still worship, only at other altars. We may snicker at those who, in the past, carved an ear on a block of wood and then prayed to it, but we have our false gods too: gods that make us into their images. “Those who make [idols] become like them,” wrote the psalmist, “so do all who trust in them” (Ps. 135:18).

The modern pantheon of idols includes the following:

Self. The first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before [Me]” (Exod. 20:3). Today we have no other gods before me.

State. The apostle Paul wrote, “My God will supply every need: (Phil. 4:19). Today we increasingly look to the state to supply our needs, and even many of our wants.

Sex. This very good gift of God, a means of expressing love and marital oneness, is for many life’s highest pursuit, an end in and of itself.

Science. The word of science (or, more accurately, of scientists) has replaced the Word of God as the source of absolute truth. Rather than pointing us to the God who made the world, science allows us to remake the world, and even ourselves, as we see fit.

Stuff. Blaise Pascal famously wrote of a God-shaped void we all have that only God can fill. Today, the constant barrage of commercials and marketing slogans proclaim that our void is stuff shaped. Yet the more we fill our lives with stuff, the less we’re satisfied.

Of course, idols can never replace God, but even more, they dehumanize us. We see ourselves and others in the image of whatever it is we worship. People become sexual objects, valued because of their appearance and used for our pleasure, rather than subjects with inherent dignity and value. Just as we value stuff that is useful and convenient, we devalue those with disabilities, and those who aren’t sufficiently useful or convenient are targeted and dismembered in the womb. In the twentieth century, many government, in godlike fashion, eliminated those who stood in the way of Marxist, fascist, or Nazi agendas. In the twenty-first century, many governments ostracize and silence those who refuse the agendas of sexual ideologies.

Insightful, challenging, and thought provoking.

1 Comment

Posted by on December 23, 2017 in Books, Culture, Quotes, Scripture


A blueprint for more effective prayer

Book Review: Make Your Voice Heard in Heaven: How to Pray with Power, by Barry C. Black, Chaplain of the United States Senate

The best thing about Barry Black’s book on prayer is that it is thoroughly biblical. It is not based on personal experience, good ideas, or pragmatic principles. It is thoroughly and solidly based on and grounded in what Scripture teaches about prayer.

Barry C. Black is Chaplain of the United States Senate. He was asked to be the keynote speaker at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. As he explains,

With about three months to prepare, I began to sleep, eat, think, walk, and talk about prayer. The book you are now holding is the result of those three months of ruminating, agonizing, and organizing. Having practiced these principles in my own private prayer life and in my role as chaplain of the US Senate, I offer my observations and advice about how to pray with power and make your voice heard in heaven.

The book is organized by themes and divided into 15 chapters. The author describes how to pray with assistance … the Model prayer … with purity … fearlessly … with effectiveness … to escape the squeeze of temptation … when God is silent … when you don’t feel like being good … with patience … with celebration … with intimacy … with fervency … with perseverance … with submission … with a partner.

While the author uses personal stories, historical examples, and insightful quotes, the vast majority of the content is solidly centered on what Scripture teaches about prayer. That alone sets the book apart from many books on prayer.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 23, 2017 in Books, Prayer, Quotes


There will be a day

Suffering on earth makes you long for heaven. I pondered that thought as I woke up in my reclining chair and hobbled to the bathroom to get cleaned up for another day.

I long for the day when I will no longer need a walker to get around or crutches to get up the stairs. I look forward to when I will not need pain killers, blood thinners, vitamins, or allergy meds. Rather than avoid the stairs, I will be able to run up and down all the many flights of stairs in my heavenly mansion.

There will be a day when there will be no more pain, no more aches, no more tears, no more need for physical therapy. I long for the day when I will be transformed, when this frail body puts on immortality.

While I am not ready to leave this life quite yet, my current challenges makes me long for the next one. There will be a day … and it brings great hope.

1 Comment

Posted by on December 22, 2017 in Personal growth, Theology